Written By Caroline Spencer
Whether you have a large or small dog then you are probably pulling out your hair as I write if he or she is lunging to and jumping at everyone as they come into your home or out on a walk.
As puppies, naturally when they are with their mother growing up within a family that they truly understand and can rely on and trust to do the right thing when they feel uneasy makes them feel safe.
Natural instinct and education will guide the dog to avoid rather than to confront their fears and anxieties. So in the natural world of canines they will be taught by their parents and older siblings within the family, slowly and gently, that life with them is safe and just to follow their example and they will be safe. Stick with those they look up to and learn what is safe and what is not and how to deal with any situation in a way that keeps them safe, whether that be; to flee, freeze (assess) or fight. The fight option is the very last resort and within a wild family of dogs or wolves, this very rarely happens as when they get to about the age of 4 they leave the family security with all the knowledge to forge forward to find their own mate and start a new family.
Unruly behavior is nipped in the bud and kindly but firmly the young ones are guided to make better choices and not push and shove their way through life. They make no friends that way and become unpopular.
When we get puppies, we remove them from this natural education and then subject them to control by us in situations that they find alarming. We give them too much exposure to new things too soon and expect them to control their natural instincts and accept control from us without a second thought.
A dog jumping up, barging in or any other over the top behavior is a dog uneasy about the encounter or one that has been over-socialized and been shown limited natural boundaries. Dogs, who as puppies have been fed treats by everyone they meet will then see them as easy food sources. Puppies that have been taken up to every dog they pass by to meet and greet, regardless of whether it is an appropriate personality match, will become nervous and fearful dependent on many factors including DNA make up. The dogs’ behavior then becomes completely haywire in the dog world and human world. It gets it wrong on both counts.
If we insist a dog sits when it wants to jump up we are working away from nature. We are trying to control an already highly charged situation. The dog wants to do it, it is unthinking of anyone’s personal space but its own and certainly not in the right frame of mind/chemical state, to learn anything that doesn’t fit into its natural way of being and learning.
Everything a dog does is communication to us and those around it and a reaction to the environment.
Naturally, a dog will grow up to be a calm adult if they have a friend/family member they can look to for guidance, who they trust to keep them safe by trusting them to DO the right thing when they ask a question, then they will be calm and happy.
Dogs need to express themselves, they talk to us by what they do and it’s for us NOT to ignore their language BUT to embrace it and answer in a way that the dog instinctively understands.
As puppies, they naturally follow their mother, they naturally follow us. Then we put them on a lead in a training situation and they learn to pull. They are not naughty; they just will naturally pull away from what they see as a restriction to their natural canine communication, which they need to display. We have to understand that putting anything on a dog is going to make it feel vulnerable as it’s not natural, we also have to understand that being confined in a space where there is no option to leave is also unnatural.
With this in mind, I only do 1-2-1 work with dogs and their owners and find a suitable mix of friends for each individual, dependent on personality. Some really don’t want or need doggy friends and many dogs are more than happy with just their owners.
For example, my boy Piper is now 14yrs old ( been raw fed since he was 3, which is when I saw the light!). I remember very clearly when he was about 4 yrs old, someone bent down to stroke him, he jumped up! Did I think badly behaved dog? nope … I thought badly behaved human. His space had been invaded and he was anxious. The human concerned said …Thought you trained dogs…he needs some work! I thought as I walked away…you’re the one that needs working on mate!
On another occasion I was talking to a friend who asked if she could stroke him, I asked her to step away and call him to her. He didn’t go just looked up at me with a what looked to me like a … do I have to ;( blank face and drooped ears. He didn’t go, so I then walked up to her and asked her to stroke him but look at what his body did as she bends towards him. She noted he sank ever so slightly, his tail was stationary and head lowered and ears flopped. Was he enjoying this? nope, he was enduring this encounter with a stranger.
Don’t expect your dog to be everything to everyone, just help him be everything and more to you.
The other day in the office we had the most beautiful male dog by the name of Hero with us. He’s two years old and lives with a busy family. At two years old he is pretty much fully mature adult. He is well known for being a complete bully, pulling on the lead, jumping at everyone he meets in and out of the house and lunging and barking at most things and howling and barking at everyone who passed when in the car.
A short preparation to get in that car of a silent walk for 2-3 minutes and we drove for 40 minutes without a peep out of him. Just the odd calm palm on his side, if he started panting.
In the office, he settled remarkably quickly. Postman came in and out and he didn’t budge, just a look up and then rested his head down again. Later, he was approached by someone (no names mentioned!) who walked directly towards him, looking him directly in the eye. This person wanted to say hello…Hero reacted and jumped and panted ( he was very anxious, not pleased for the attention as many think)I removed him away from the situation calmly and after blocking the view of this chap behind another desk, then silently walked about for a minute, he then lay down by my side again. By silent walking, saying absolutely nothing meant he could concentrate on my movement, it gave him the opportunity to calm because I was calm, I looked calm and smelt calm more importantly.
I also took the opportunity in educating the human chap that this dog is not like his and eye contact has become alarming to him, the dogs were in a new place and also back in under a desk…nowhere to flee. So dogs do not get alarmed by eye contact, don’t do it. It’s an attack. If it happens infrequently from strangers then it’s not going to be a big deal, and if you walk your dog away from prying eyes then he will feel safe with you always. And as he grows is into an adult invariably he will have no issue at all.
SO … never go up to a dog, always call it to you, even if the owner says its fine. The dog may just be putting up with it and you may be the last straw. Be respectful of any dogs space and he will be respectful of yours.
Dogs mirror your, how you are and how you smell. If you take control of the situation and not the dog, then the dog can control himself because his is supported by you doing the right thing not controlling.
Train your visitors and your dog will be peachy perfect.
If a dog displays any undesirable behavior e.g jumping up …don’t verbally stop it, don’t get it to sit…work through it so you are teaching the dog the skills he would naturally do.
Ignoring your dog’s behavior and insisting on a human-made behavior only confuses many dogs and that’s when things get hairy …. So to speak.